Friday, July 31, 2009

Vegan Before Six Turns Into "Vegan at Lunchtime"

I really wish that Mark Bittman would just get over his obsession with clinging to the word 'vegan'. I really do. A few weeks ago, I wrote about his public proclamation that his mostly plant-based (i.e. omnivorous) diet had led to his supposed protein deficiency. In today's "Bitten", Mr. Needs-To-Get-a-Dictionary slippery sloped himself into what he describes as yet another type of veganism. Yes, folks: Once upon a time, according to Mark Bittman, you could be a "vegan before six". Today, according to Mark Bittman, a meal that includes animal-based ingredients can be called "almost-vegan". And why fish sauce? "I swear it made the dish – though it would have been okay without it," he wrote. Throwing in a teaspoon of a substance derived from dead animals just for the sake of your tastebuds is about as "almost vegan" as having a chicken's leg with rice and a salad. It sounds as if he's well on his way to soon living out the VBM (vegan between meals) scenario Mary Martin presented in a recent satirical post on her blog.

The truth is that (as Martin points out as well), veganism isn't just about diet. It's ridiculous to call yourself a vegan every single time you put something into your mouth that isn't animal-derived. As Prof. Gary Francione states on his Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach website:

Veganism is not merely a matter of diet; it is a moral and political commitment to abolition on the individual level and extends not only to matters of food, but to clothing and other products, and to other personal actions and choices. It is important to recognize that just as an abolitionist with respect to human slavery cannot continue to be a slaveowner, an abolitionist with respect to animal slavery cannot continue to consume or use animal flesh or animal products.

Veganism is also a commitment to nonviolence and it is imperative that the animal rights movement be a movement of peace and nonviolence.

So why is an omni foodie like Mark Bittman, who demonstrates over and over again that he has no concern whatsoever about the plight and enslavement of animals--why is he so obsessed with clinging to a word that stands for the complete opposite of what he represents? Oh, to be a fly on the wall of one of his therapy sessions. Just once and either before or after six. I'm not picky.

(ETA: The answer to my question via Prof. Francione's blog post "In Defense of Bittman".)


kelly g. said...

I'd posit that veganism is the current trend, but then why the perpetual anti-vegan insults?

M said...

An omni friend of mine who is a high school teacher and who reads my blog mentioned to me that it's just high school all over again: Kids always make fun of the kids they resent/envy the most for being the "cool kids" (and by this, he didn't necessarily mean the popular kids). What do you think?

gfrancione said...


For the past several years, "animal rights" people have been using "vegan" to describe anything but. Singer talks about being a "flexible" vegan and about the "luxury" of animal products. He claims that being a consistent vegan is "fanatical." Vegan Outreach tells us that veganism "is not an end in itself. It is not a dogma or religion, nor a list of forbidden ingredients or immutable laws—it is only a tool for opposing cruelty and reducing suffering." Singer and PETA tell us that we should just go ahead and eat an animal product rather than risk making others think that veganism is too difficult.

Can Bittman be faulted when this is what "animal people" have to say about "veganism." If I were Bittman, I might think myself "fanatical," according to the "father of the animal rights movement," if I did not put a bit of fish in--just for flavor.


Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University

M said...

Poor dear Mark Bittman's been misled, then. I hadn't thought of it that way.

Unknown said...

The thing is: we keep thinking of veganism as a *diet* instead of an ethical perspective on the use of animals. If animals aren't ours to *use*, sure, that has implications on diet, but it has implications all over the place. Unlike Atkins, or something, this isn't really about human health or the environment (although those are both good things to be concerned with).

As long as folks keep promoting veganism as a diet option, well...we're just not going to get anywhere.

M said...

Well, as long as the welfarists insist on promoting it as being optional, in the first place, then it's no surprise that others will run with it even further.

WiLSoN said...

I just discovered your blog. I love it, and I really really love the picture of your stunningly beautiful kitty!